This Device Lets You Harvest Drinking Water Out of Air

The United nations World Water Development Report 2016 said that by 2030, the world could face a 40% global water deficit. And by 2025, 1.8 billion people will estimatedly be living in areas with very little to no water at all, and two thirds of global population will live in conditions where water is scarce.

Scarcity of clean, drinking water is a real threat to humanity, and some areas of the world still don’t have access to it. Researchers constantly try to make an innovation, including David Hertz and Laura Doss-Hertz, co-founders of the Skysource/Skywater Alliance which made atmospheric water generator that condenses moisture in the air, making fresh water.

The company is a joint of Island Sky Corp., the creator of Skywater technology and its business partner as well as distributor, Hence the name Skysource/Skywater Alliance.

Read also: What you need to know about Global Clean Water Crisis

This device, called Skywater machine, has won Water Abundance XPrize worth US$1.5 million. It’s a competition aiming to solve global water crisis with energy-efficient technologies that harvest fresh water from the air. Competitors had to harvest over 2,000 liters of drinkable water from the atmosphere during 24 hour. They have to use only renewable resources for less than 2 cents per liter.

Skywater machine has a range from Skywater 30 to 300. The former makes up to 30 gallons of water a day and the latter produces up to 300 gallons. The company claims that the machines produce water “more efficiently than any other method of moisture extraction or filtration.” This machine can be used for either household use or emergency relief efforts.

Even though Skywater machine that won the competition is new, the technology has existed since 2004. President of Island Sky, Richard Groden, has been harvesting water from air since that year. He said, “Water is a human right,”

“There is an abundant, untapped source of clean drinking water in the air around us. Our technology provides a very comprehensive solution to the water crisis that will work as well in the developing world as it will in the technologically advanced areas.”

Water in air

Clean water on land is getting rare, however the atmosphere actually contains about million gallons of water, in the invisible vapor phase. According to Steven Ackerman and Jonathan Martin, professors in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, that amount of water is enough to cover the entire surface of Earth.

Read also: Cape Cod Is Adding Millions Of Oysters To Maintain Water Quality

About Skywater

Skywater machine uses patented distillation process where water vapor becomes liquid without a gain or loss of heat. Then, it’s refrigerated using techniques that maintain a dew point in a condensation chamber. This way, the machine maximises water production from any kind of atmospheric condition. The higher the humidity and temperature, the more water you get.

When the condensation is done, the machine filters and treats the water with ozone to prevent harmful microorganisms from forming and enhance the taste. You can use the water immediately or store it for later. It’s stored in a tank inside a shipping container and connected to a bottle refill station or tap.

There’s a system in this device called WEDEW (Wood to Energy Deployed Water) that combines two existing systems. So the machine mimics how clouds are formed and it takes warm air. It then hits cold air and forms droplets of clean water. Almost like how rain is made.

One downside of this device is that it needs a lot of electricity. However, the designers came up with an idea to power the machine with a biomass gasifier. It burns wood chips, coconut shells, or any kind of cheap biomass available around you.

In places like California, you can putu pine trees or any kind of dead trees which have been killed by drought and pests. Dry, dead trees will only lead to the risk of burning in fires and releasing more CO2. To avoid that from happening, it’s better to dump them into the Skywater’s gasifier instead.

The burning makes the system hot and humid, which is an ideal environment for the machine to work well. And once it’s done, the machine will also produce bio-char, which is a charcoal that you can use to enrich soil.

If there are no wood available, the system can also run on solar and battery power, so it’s not just using biomass. Therefore, Skywater is a perfect device for areas where water is polluted or where there’s a lack of supplies.

Hertz said, Our process is one that is really antithetical to the slow-moving infrastructure that exists that is not able to be responsive to a changing climate as it is in the case of say, Cape Town, for instance.”

Regarding the use of $1.5 million prize money, Hertz said that, “There’s no restrictions whatsoever on how it’s used, But Laura and I have committed to using it all for the development and deployment of these machines, to get them to people who need the water most.”

Vice president of Global Impact Strategy at XPrize has expressed her eagerness to relieve all people who face water scarcity. Tata said, Water is our lifeblood. With alarming water shortages impacting livelihood around the world, we are in dire need of decentralized and democratized water breakthroughs now more than ever.”

Read also: These Food You Consume Contribute a lot to Water Footprint

The competition

Because Skywater machine was contested in a competition, there’s no doubt that there are a lot of competitors which basically make similar device. The finalist teams of The Water Abundance Xprize were JMCC WING from Hawaii, Hydro Harvest Operation from Australia, Skydra from Chicago, Uravu from India, and The Veragon & ThinAir Partnership from London.

Dr. Peter Diamandis, XPrize founder and executive chairman said that, “This year’s Visioneering beautifully encapsulates the full life-cycle of an XPrize with the awarding of the Water Abundance XPrize, which began as a prize concept proposed at a Visioneering just five years earlier by our trustee, Eric Hirshberg.”

He continued, “It is testament to the basic premise that Visioneering is the forum where participants’ breakthrough ideas are presented, evaluated, upvoted, funded and then go on to have real-world, transformative impact.”

After the competition of air-harvested water, XPrize is going to hold another one with “Coral Survival” as a concept. Basically, it aims to get innovations that will help replenish dying coral reefs.

“What particularly resonated about the coral reef presentation is the urgency with which we need to address this important issue caused by climate change before it is too late. We are committed to finding the necessary funds to capitalize and launch this competition as soon as possible,” said Anousheh Ansari, XPrize chief executive officer.

Read also: This Device Lets You Harvest Water From Air, Even in the Desert




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